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Canadian doctor trying to ‘cure’ men of homosexuality had sex with them in his office, committee says

Outside the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
Outside the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

A Canadian psychiatrist who believed homosexuality was a mental illness with a chance of cure was found guilty by Ontario’s medical regulator of having sex with two of his male patients, the Toronto Star reported. The doctor denied the allegations and is considering an appeal, his lawyer told the paper.

Dr. Melvyn Iscove, a 72-year-old graduate of the University of Toronto, has a “special interest” in treating psychiatric problems related to homosexuality, the discipline commitee wrote in its report.

To do so, he relied on the theories of Dr. Edmund Bergler, a prominent psychoanalyst of the 1950s who believed homosexuality was a mental disorder and called gay men “psychic masochists” and “essentially disagreeable people,” reported The New York Times.

Mainstream psychiatry no longer considers homosexuality a mental disorder, and hasn’t since 1973.

The committee pointed to two cases of men who went to Dr. Iscove in the 1990s and who stayed patients for many years. One, referred to as Patient A, saw Iscove two or three times a week, where at “almost every appointment” the two discussed the patient’s homosexual fantasies and dreams, including those about Iscove, the committee wrote.

In fact, the committee said Iscove would often prompt the patient directly whether the patient had fantasies about him, even if the patient didn’t bring them up. The patient thought of Iscove as a “father figure” whom he could ask for advice, but still felt a lot of shame when discussing his fantasies, the committee reported, and often said “what he thought Dr. Iscove wanted to hear.”

In 2001 and 2002, Iscove began offering hugs to the patient at the end of their visits before eventually telling him “you may touch me if you like” and allowing the patient to touch his genitals, according to the committee.

On other visits, the two masturbated together and performed oral sex, before the patient said he did not want to do it anymore - though he patient continued to see the Iscove after the sexual activity ended, the committee wrote.

Another patient, Patient B, told the committee Iscove was a helpful and trusting physician who helped him deal with alcohol behavior issues and other problems, and so he wanted to “impress” the doctor and be a “good patient” by talking about his fantasies with Iscove.

At almost every visit, the committee said Iscove would ask the patient whether he had fantasies about Dr. Iscove himself, to which the patient would respond yes, but that it made him uncomfortable to speak of it.

In 2007, the two began engaging in sexual activity, and when Patient B thought about starting a relationship with an different male, Iscove allegedly told him that he himself was available, and that a random partner was not desirable, the committee wrote.

The two moved on to mutual masturbation, oral sex and, eventually, penetrative anal sex, first at the office and later at Iscove’s house, the committee said.

The committee determined that Iscove had committed professional misconduct by engaging in sexual abuse of two patients and engaging in other unprofessional conduct by selling personal items, offering guest tickets to an opera, and arranging for patients to rent an apartment in another city.

His license was immediately suspended and he will have a full penalty hearing at an undetermined time.

“We're both very disappointed with the result, obviously,” Iscove’s lawyer Alfred Kwinter told the Toronto Star. “Dr. Iscove has always denied the allegations, he continues to do so, and he's seriously considering an appeal.”

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